Monday Mar 27

BeerNicky Nicky Beer is the author of The Diminishing House (Carnegie Mellon UP, 2010).   She has received a Literature Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Ruth Lilly Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation, a Tuition Scholarship from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and a Discovery/The Nation award.  She teaches at the University of Colorado Denver, where she co-edits the journal Copper Nickel.


Thousands of dead octopuses have washed up on a beach in northern Portugal...They cover a 5-mile stretch of Vila Nova de Gaia beach—no reason has yet been found for their appearance.  The authorities have warned the public not to eat them.  —BBC News, January 3, 2010

A poem like being stranded

on a beach: hour after hour

unsnarling the littoral for flotsam.

So what to do with this real

shore, the thousands of real

octopus corpses washed

upon it? Disembodied

dishwashers’ hands: flesh

gelatinous and bismuthal,

eight fingers naked and splayed

for seagulls’ alms.

But what if the shibboleth

of this pebbled charnel is not

, but take? Perhaps

now the gods make

their offerings to us.

Anything can become a bier—

think of the pyramidal pile

of mice in the fridge

at the raptor rehab clinic,

each a sterile white garnished

with a little frozen flag

of blood, and how the injured

falcon absently turned one

inside out, the soundless

unzipping from whisker

to tail. Or the tangle of

maggots tumbling from

the chest of the bluebird

overturned with a hesitant stick:

your revulsion was not

of the worms, mild and pallid

tildes, but the hunger that flexed

them wildly in the air,

the prescience that your rot

would one day fatten them.

A poem like being born

behind a dead bird’s heart,

eating your way into the light.